Anyone who’s seen zombie film Dawn of the Dead or read Stephen King’s The Mist, will know that shopping centres can occupy a dark place in some people’s psyche.
I understand why. I’m not a fan of the mall experience, mainly because of the lack of windows, and the Escher-esque stairs and escalators that seem designed so you’ll go in circles and never find the exit.
WHERE IS THE EXIT?
Eating out in these unnatural spaces has never been a positive experience either.
I’m thinking bad burgers (Wimpy?) circa the Eighties on the ground floor of Edinburgh’s Waverley Market (now Princes Mall), the grim cafe in the St James Centre (currently semi-flattened), or any miserable Costa in every other place.
Still, Glasgow’s Princes Square is a more up-market venue. I still pine for afternoon tea at their cafe/shop Fifi and Ally, once on the top deck.
Nowadays at the rear on the basement level, across the central stage-like ring, where toddlers spin and dance, you’ll find this five month old restaurant.
We were the only diners on our visit, maybe because the shops were shutting and it was Monday.
The staff were rattling around, while, rather than the usual shopping centre musak, dire pop tunes that sounded like something from the latest Now That’s What I Call Music compilation bounced around the space.
Not my favourite kind of atmosphere.
However, their all-day menu has a good selection of stuff and we had high hopes, partially because this place’s head chef is Andrew Greenan, who has experience at the Glasgow branch of The Honours and One Devonshire Gardens.
There are flexible sizes of dish, to suit pit-stop shoppers or post-retail lingerers. We mainly ordered from the Small Plates section, with options that came as they were ready.
However, first to arrive was something from the For the Table list – a tarte-flambėe-inspired flatbread pizzette (£6.25), It boasted a light and salty topping of sour cream, caramelised onion and diced bacon.
We cut it into postage stamp sized squares to make it go further, but all too soon, it disappeared down our respective gullets.
Next was the Oriental fried chicken (£7.50), which featured crusty bits of wing and leg – dry in parts but also satisfyingly crusty on top, with a sesame-ish soy and ginger coating, and a side of fresh and lime-injected kohlrabi coleslaw.
We couldn’t really find the “candied aubergine” element in our sea bream option (£9) – perhaps it had been replaced by the ratatouille, or the coiled ribbon of courgette.
Still, it was a great dish – crispy skinned, with a pool of thick red pepper sauce.
The slow braised beef cheek (£9.50) was a good dollop of soft dark meat, with slivers of potato, a “creamed sauerkraut”, as well as some straight up sauerkraut, and veiny savoy cabbage in its pre-pickling stage, all heaped with a robust and conker-coloured jus.
However, my favourite was the billowing bowlful of twice-baked comte cheese soufflé (£6.50), which was as intensely cheesy as a karaoke party at a mouse’s house.
Our only Big Plate was the goat’s cheese ravioli (£12.50), which was pleasant enough – strewn with roasted red peppers, sage leaves and ladles of butter – though not quite as exciting as all the lovely Small Plates.
You should, however, save yourself for breakfast, as puddings include a rather spectacular French toast (£5.50). It featured slabs of cinnamon and sugar crusted brioche, with a slightly granular toffee sauce on the side and a blob of silky tonka bean ice-cream.
Forget Special K, this is where brekkie is at. We also loved the tea-time Epoch eclair (£4.50) – a crisp glove of glazed pastry filled with whipped cream and topped with orange zest and white chocolate.
Lovely things, and in a style that reflects what this restaurant is really for – daytime noshing and socialising for those with lots of shopping bags and low blood sugar.
For once, it was nice to be in a shopping centre and in zero hurry to locate the nearest exit. n
Princes Square,48 Buchanan Street,Glasgow